A Celebration of 12 Ministries
On the evening of November 13, nearly 200 guests filled the grand ballroom of the Old Tappan Manor in New Jersey to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the seminary and honor twelve individuals who hold the distinct honor of being the first graduates of St. Nersess and St. Vladimir Seminaries and ordained as priests.
His Grace Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese and President of the St. Nersess Board of Directors, officiated.
Love and joy emanated from the room as clergy, honored guests, alumni, faculty, board of directors, students, summer conference alumni, donors and guests celebrated the honorees and their ministries, after enjoying an abundant cocktail hour.
Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean and one of the twelve honorees, served as the emcee for the evening. He began by welcoming and quizzing the guests on who ordained each honoree: Fr. Kevork Arakelian was ordained by the founder and first dean of the seminary, Abp. Tiran Nersoyan of blessed memory; Fr. Garabed Kochakian, Fr. Yeprem Kelegian, and Fr. Mardiros were ordained by the former primate of the Eastern Diocese and Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Abp. Torkom Manoogian of blessed memory; Fr. Shnork Demirjian was ordained by the former primate of the Western Diocese, Abp. Vatche Hovsepian; Fr. Diran Bohajian, Fr. Sahak Kaishian, Fr. Tavit Boyajian, Fr. Arakel Aljalian, Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, and Fr. Simeon Odabashian were ordained by the former primate of the Eastern Diocese and now Representative of the Armenian Church to the Vatican and Pontifical Legate of Western Europe, Abp. Khajag Barsamian.
Khajag Srpazan first offered the invocation and then shared a few remarks. “I love St. Nersess and will always remember Tiran Srpazan as our founder and Fr. Karekin Kasparian for making the founder’s vision a reality.”
A celebratory toast followed of Karas sparkling wine donated by Vias Imports NYC, which was proposed to the engaged crowd by Michael Haratunian, chairperson of the St. Nersess board of directors.
Fr. Mardiros introduced three of the honorees – Fr. Kevork Arakelian, Fr. Shnork Demirjian and Fr. Simeon Odabashian – who spoke on behalf of the twelve while the guests enjoyed dinner. They each pointed to their journey to the seminary and how their mentors helped them achieve their dream of becoming a priest of the Armenian Church.
Der Mardiros recognized the banquet donors, including the Mardigian Foundation who graciously underwrote the cocktail hour and dinner for all the guests. Additional expenses were covered by Dean Shahinian, Esq., who funded the design and production of the video; Sarkis and Ruth Bedevian who provided the travel and lodging expenses for the honorees; George and Lorraine Marootian who underwrote the floral centerpieces; and Dn. Diran Jebejian who photographed the event. Also recognized was Dr. Alexandru Tudorie, academic dean from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and his wife Dr. Denisa Tudorie. St. Nersess shares a 50+ year relationship with St. Vladimir’s.
After dinner was served, seminarians Dn. Adam Bullock and Dn. Garen Hamamjian and faculty member Dn. Yervant Kutchukian, who dubbed themselves the Three Baritones, sang a selection of Armenian hymns and popular songs. The guests joyously clapped and sang along in their final selection of Azk Eem Parabandz.
There were also a few surprise presentations during the evening. The first one honored seminary benefactor Dean Shahinian for his most generous donations toward the educational development of the faculty and staff, support of library acquisitions, and student life enhancements. He was gifted a beautiful, framed illustration of his mother and himself, hand drawn in Armenia by artist Hovhannes Yedigaryan. The artist also prepared illustrations of all 12 honorees and three special gifts.
Following was a moving presentation and standing ovation to honor Fr. Karekin Kasparian and his 60 years of service to the seminary. It was noted how he has served as assistant dean, dean, conference founder and director, faculty member, and as board member since the seminary’s very beginning. Fr. Karekin received a special gift from the seminary – a personal illustration drawn in Armenia and bronze sculpture created by Yn. Yefkin Megerian – which were jointly presented with Bishop Daniel Findikyan. Der Karekin remains the last remaining link to the founder of the seminary, Abp. Tiran Nersoyan.
The guests cheered as Fr. Mardiros recognized the event co-chairs – Margaret Kachigian Ajamian and Lynn Pinajian Beylerian – who gave of themselves unconditionally to plan a safe event and a successful fundraiser. They in turn surprised Fr. Mardiros with an acknowledgement of his support and a beautiful illustration of his wife, Yn. Diane Chevian, who recently passed away.
The anticipated video, 12 Vocations, premiered for the first time and was viewed on multiple screens around the room. It detailed the calling to the priesthood of each of the honorees and how St. Nersess has impacted their lives. Links to the inspiring video will be posted soon.
Fr. Mardiros took to the podium once more to announce that “12 Vocations is only the first in a series of events that we have planned to recognize and offer thanks to those who have answered the call to serve the Lord through the Armenian Church. In the coming years we will continue to honor the now more than 50 alumni who are ordained clergy and lay ministers.”
To conclude the evening, Bishop Daniel gave the final message and benediction. “What a joyous evening to celebrate St. Nersess and how it has touched every aspect of the Armenian Church and around the world. It is no longer an ‘experiment’.” He recalled how Fr. Kevork Arakelian encouraged him to attend a St. Nersess Deacons’ Training Program when he was 14 years old and how that first conference set him on his path to the priesthood.
“I would like to thank all our honorees for their commitment to our Church, Fr. Mardiros as dean, and Khajag Srpazan for ordaining seven of tonight’s honorees,” stated Bishop Daniel. The guests concurred they are ready for the next St. Nersess gala which will take place in the Fall of 2023 and departed with their keepsake commemorative booklets detailing each honoree and seminary donors! Click for all photos.